Editor's note: Monday Morning Crew Chief would like to welcome a new member to the staff. Terrence Hunley will produce Power Rankings following every race this season. Each week he will rank drivers from first to 20th, along with a did-not-finish category. Once the season starts, the rankings will appear the Tuesday following a race.
Welcome the first Power Rankings in MMCC history. Comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Now, without further ado ... the 2012 Preseason Power Rankings.
1. Tony Stewart – The defending champ couldn’t have started off his season any better, unless he decided to fire Danica Patrick.
2. Matt Kenseth – The “other” duel winner, if you even want to call that snore-fest a race worth winning.
3. Carl Edwards – He got the pole and the early lead. But Tony Stewart got the win, what else is new.
4. Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch had perhaps the “best restrictor-plate performance ever” in the Bud Shootout. If he shows that kind of discipline, skill and drive all season, look out.
5. Kasey Kahne – Only Stewart and Edwards had a better Chase, and neither of them improved the quality of their ride like Kahne did. Beware 2012 is the Year of Kahne.
6. Greg Biffle – The Biff starts on the outside of the front row for the big race Sunday, the question is, can he finish it up front.
7. Jimmie Johnson – Heeeee’s baaaaack. Chad Knaus that is. Already on the wrong side of the NASCAR hauler this season, though … the last time the #48 team was caught cheating during Speedweeks, Johnson won the Daytona 500.
8. Jeff Gordon – Had one of the best cars in the shootout until Hendrick announced a change in sponsor: Fly to End Hunger.
9. Denny Hamlin – The new pairing of Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb will be one of the best new pairings in the sport.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – It’s Daytona, it’s Junior … nuff said.
11. Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose's #9 car has looked pretty stout so far through Speedweeks, don’t be surprised if the Tasmanian Devil gets it done at Daytona.
12. Kevin Harvick – Happy has a Daytona 500 win to his credit, much to the chagrin of one Mark Martin, adding another is another story.
13. Brad Keselowski – The new face of Penske Racing is looking to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. I believe it wasn’t, and a win at Daytona will help Keselowski become an early Chase favorite.
14. Kurt Busch – If there is a shot for the #51 to win a race, it’s at Daytona, where Busch has been really good before, though not a win.
15. Michael McDowell – Congrats on making the Daytona 500, now there will be that token restrictor-plate backstretch flip usually reserved for Elliott Sadler
16. Ryan Newman – Hard to believe that Ryan Newman is the only driver at Stewart-Haas Racing with a Daytona 500 win, and is getting the least amount of publicity heading into this year's race.
17. A.J. Allmendinger – The Dinger made the best move upward in rides this side of Kasey Kahne. Can he break into the first-time winners club? He has to, I mean … even this next guy has a win.
18. Regan Smith – I give Regan credit, if there is one track he is good at, it’s Daytona. Too bad it’s only on the schedule twice.
19. Elliott Sadler – Welcome back to racing with the big boys Elliott, though the fact that you ran a full Nationwide season and only finished second isn’t too encouraging.
20. Danica Patrick – What was Danica doing? My vote is for playing peek-a-boo with the wall. The wall won.
DNF: Michael Waltrip – Really? You end perhaps your final Daytona 500 qualifying effort like that? Ouch. Even worse than the wreck was DW trying to make it sound like it could happen to anybody.